United States District Court, District of Columbia
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
lawsuit arises from a Freedom of Information Act
(“FOIA”) request that Plaintiff Howard
Bloomgarden made to Defendant National Archives and Records
Administration (“NARA”). Plaintiff requested
documents related to the 1995 termination of an Assistant
United States Attorney (“AUSA”). In response to
Plaintiff's FOIA request, Defendant identified three
letters. Defendant eventually provided Plaintiff with one of
the responsive letters but withheld the two remaining
responsive letters, claiming that they fell under FOIA's
Exemption 6 which protects “personnel and medical files
and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a
clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” 5
U.S.C. § 552(b)(6). Plaintiff filed this suit, arguing
that the two responsive letters are not exempt from FOIA. The
parties have filed cross-motions for Summary Judgment on the
issue of whether the two letters fall under Exemption 6 to
consideration of the pleadings,  the relevant legal
authorities, and the record as it currently stands, the Court
DENIES Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and GRANTS
Defendant's motion for summary judgment. The Court
concludes that the letters are exempt from FOIA based on
FOIA request, Plaintiff seeks to acquire letters regarding
the potential misconduct and termination of former AUSA for
the Eastern District of New York (“EDNY”) Raymond
Granger. Plaintiff's FOIA request stems from a 1995 joint
state-federal investigation into Plaintiff's possible
involvement in criminal acts, which eventually lead to
Plaintiff pleading guilty in the EDNY. Pl.'s Statement of
Facts, ECF No. [13-2], 3. Mr. Granger was the lead prosecutor
for the investigation. Id. at 2. But, Mr. Granger
was removed from Plaintiff's case in 1995 and was soon
thereafter terminated from his position with EDNY.
Id. at 3.
has requested the termination materials related to Mr.
Granger based on the belief that the materials may show that
Mr. Granger engaged in misconduct regarding certain proffers
that Plaintiff made to the federal and Los Angeles County
prosecutors when Mr. Granger was leading the investigation.
Compl., ECF No. , ¶¶ 10-13. If the termination
materials show misconduct on the part of Mr. Granger,
Plaintiff intends to use such information to help his effort
to get a new trial before the California state court, where
he was convicted of murder in 2014. Pl.'s Statement of
Facts, ECF No. [13-2], 3-4.
of his strategy in the California case, in 2007, Plaintiff
initiated his first FOIA request seeking documents relating
to Mr. Granger's termination. Pl.'s Mot, ECF No.
[13-3], 12. The Department of Justice, which was in
possession of a draft termination letter and related
documents, withheld the documents as exempt under FOIA. In
2012, Plaintiff initiated suit seeking disclosure of the
documents. The court ordered the release of approximately 3,
600 pages of exhibits to the requested letter but concluded
that the draft letter itself was exempt under FOIA.
Id. at 12-13; see generally Bloomgarden v. U.S.
Dep't of Justice, 874 F.3d 757 (D.C. Cir. 2017).
2013, Plaintiff initiated a new FOIA request, this time
requesting from NARA documents related to Mr. Granger's
termination. Pl.'s Statement of Facts, ECF No. [13-2], 4.
Defendant indicated that three responsive letters had been
found and that all three letters would be released to
Plaintiff. Pl.'s Ex. DD, ECF No. [13-7], 78-79. But
Defendant later explained that, upon further review, the
letters were exempt from FOIA under Exemption 6. Id.
at 80. The archivist who had initially agreed to release the
letters had been newly hired, and after her supervisor
reviewed the request, the supervisor determined that
disclosure of the letters would cause an unwarranted invasion
of Mr. Granger's personal privacy under Exemption 6. Dec.
of Martha Wagner Murphy, ECF No. [12-2], Ex. G. Accordingly,
Defendant refused to release the three letters. But, on
administrative appeal, Defendant agreed to release one of the
letters, finding that only two of the letters met the
requirements of Exemption 6. Id.
continues seeking disclosure of the two letters pertaining to
Mr. Granger's termination from the U.S. Attorney's
Office. In 2017, Plaintiff brought action in this Court,
asking the Court to conclude that Exemption 6 is inapplicable
because the release of the letters would not result in a
clearly unwarranted invasion of Mr. Granger's privacy.
Both parties have moved for summary judgment.
enacted FOIA to “pierce the veil of administrative
secrecy and to open agency action to the light of public
scrutiny.” Dep't of the Air Force v. Rose,
425 U.S. 352, 361 (1976) (citation omitted). Congress
remained sensitive to the need to achieve balance between
these objectives and the potential that “legitimate
governmental and private interests could be harmed by release
of certain types of information.” FBI v.
Abramson, 456 U.S. 615, 621 (1982). To that end, FOIA
“requires federal agencies to make Government records
available to the public, subject to nine exemptions.”
Milner v. Dep't of Navy, 562 U.S. 562, 562
(2011). Ultimately, “disclosure, not secrecy, is the
dominant objective of the Act.” Rose, 425 U.S.
at 361. For this reason, the “exemptions are explicitly
made exclusive, and must be narrowly construed.”
Milner, 562 U.S. at 565 (citations omitted).
presented with a motion for summary judgment in this context,
the district court must conduct a “de novo”
review of the record, which requires the court to
“ascertain whether the agency has sustained its burden
of demonstrating the documents requested are ... exempt from
disclosure under the FOIA.” Multi Ag Media LLC v.
U.S. Dep't of Agriculture, 515 F.3d 1224, 1227 (D.C.
Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). The burden is on the agency to
justify its response to the plaintiff's request. 5 U.S.C.
§ 552(a)(4)(B). “An agency may sustain its burden
by means of affidavits, but only if they contain reasonable
specificity of detail rather than merely conclusory
statements, and if they are not called into question by
contradictory evidence in the record or by evidence of agency
bad faith.” Multi Ag Media, 515 F.3d at 1227
(citation omitted). “If an agency's affidavit
describes the justifications for withholding the information
with specific detail, demonstrates that the information
withheld logically falls within the claimed exemption, and is
not contradicted by contrary evidence in the record or by
evidence of the agency's bad faith, then summary judgment
is warranted on the basis of the affidavit alone.”
Am. Civil Liberties Union v. U.S. Dep't of
Defense, 628 F.3d 612, 619 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (citations
omitted). “Uncontradicted, plausible affidavits showing
reasonable specificity and a logical relation to the
exemption are likely to prevail.” Ancient Coin
Collectors Guild v. U.S. Dep't of State, 641 F.3d
504, 509 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Summary judgment is proper when
the pleadings, the discovery materials on file, and any
affidavits or declarations “show[ ] that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
does not challenge the adequacy of Defendant's search for
responsive records to Plaintiff's FOIA request. As such,
the sole issue before the Court is whether the two,
undisclosed letters regarding the termination of Mr. Granger
from the U.S. Attorney's Office fall under FOIA Exemption
6. The Court has reviewed the two letters in camera.
Considering the arguments of the parties, as well as the